Coca-Cola Signs On as Global Implementation Partner for The Ocean Cleanup’s River Project

The Coca-Cola Company and The Ocean Cleanup are teaming up behind a clear objective: to stem the tide of marine waste by intercepting plastic debris from rivers around the world.

The partnership, which brings together Coca-Cola’s scale and global network with The Ocean Cleanup’s technology and data-driven solutions, will implement cleanup systems, including the Dutch nonprofit’s solar-powered Interceptor, in 15 rivers by the end of 2022.

Two Interceptors included in this partnership have already been installed by The Ocean Cleanup in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and Can Tho, Vietnam. These initial deployments lay the groundwork for the organization’s goal to expand the project to 1,000 rivers – which The Ocean Cleanup’s research shows to be responsible for 80% of river-fed plastic emitting into oceans– over the next five years.

“The Ocean Cleanup’s mission is to rid the oceans of plastic,” said Boyan Slat, Founder and CEO, The Ocean Cleanup. “With 1000 rivers emitting nearly 80% of river-carried plastic into oceans, this massive problem grows by the day, which is why we are always looking to accelerate our progress. Among the waste we collect with our cleanup systems, we find many plastic bottles, including Coca-Cola packaging, so I applaud them for being the first in the industry to join our mission, as part of their wider actions to make a positive impact on worldwide plastic pollution. Our clear intent is to take our learnings from this partnership, which has the potential to evolve in the future, and continue to scale rapidly. That’s why I believe this is good news for our oceans.”

Unveiled in 2019, the Interceptor is the first scalable solution to collect plastic from rivers – the arteries that carry plastic waste from land to sea. Waste flowing with the river current is guided by a barrier towards the opening of the Interceptor. Thanks to the vessel’s catamaran design, the water flow path is optimized to pass through the system, carrying plastic with the current onto a conveyor belt and delivering the waste to a shuttle that automatically distributes it across six dumpsters before returning to shore for recycling.

“At Coca-Cola, we have teams on the ground who will support the deployment of new Interceptors in rivers around the world, as well as the processing and recycling of the waste collected,” said Brian Smith, president and chief operating officer, The Coca-Cola Company. “Working together, we believe we can have real impact. That’s exciting: it’s something we know our employees in every corner of the world will get behind, by helping to support the local implementation work and as ambassadors for the wider mission.” 

Coca-Cola will work with The Ocean Cleanup to integrate Interceptors into existing or emerging programs wherever possible.  Local teams will work with waste management coalitions to sort and eventually, where possible, turn captured PET plastic bottles into new bottles.

“Our collaboration will focus on scaling up solutions that prevent plastic waste from entering the oceans, effectively turning off the tap in the world’s most polluting rivers,” said Ben Jordan, senior director, environmental policy, The Coca-Cola Company. “We will leverage our global network of government, community and industry partners to ensure plastic waste collected is processed and recycled in support of a circular economy and never returns to the water. In each market, we will bring system coalitions and networks to the table to make an even greater impact.” 

Coca-Cola also will work with The Ocean Cleanup to recruit additional implementing partners and investments needed to roll out Interceptor solutions, secure licensing support and deploy River Monitoring System (RMS) cameras for further river pollution analyses.

“If other companies follow Coca-Cola’s lead,” said Dan Leahy, Chief Development Officer, The Ocean Cleanup, “we will be able to continue to increase the speed of our rollout across the globe.”

The partnership supports The Coca-Cola Company’s World Without Waste sustainable packaging goal to collect and recycle a bottle or can for every one it sells by 2030, while substantially reducing use of virgin packaging materials and using only 100% recyclable packaging materials. Achieving this vision requires investment in innovation and collaboration with partners to drive collection, recycling and sustainable design.

Since 1995, Coca-Cola has supported the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), the world's largest volunteer effort for the ocean and waterways, and is a founding member of the Trash Free Seas Alliance®. Recently, The Coca-Cola Foundation supported river-based cleanup systems through support to the Benioff Ocean Initiative at UC-Santa Barbara, which included grants to projects in 9 countries.

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